OCASA’s new president sees networking, mentorship as essential

College Administrator caught up with Krista and asked her a few questions. She likes to run, has worked 14 years as an administrator, at 2 colleges, 2 universities in 3 provinces, and is excited about OCASA’s new strategic direction.

The Interview
Tell us about your background:

I have been in postsecondary education for 18 years and an administrator for nearly 16 in both university sector and college sectors. When I graduated with my bachelor of education degree, I had applied for jobs at Acadia University and with a local school board. I was given offers within moments of each other: to either teach for a high school in the Annapolis Valley or to work as a international student advisor at the University, which included a teaching component. On a whim I took the Acadia University gig and I loved it. I have been in post secondary education ever since.

From Acadia I moved to Ontario, and spent nearly eight years as Registrar and Director of Enrolment Management at Algoma University. In Sault Ste. Marie I was part of the team that led Algoma University College to independence from Laurentian in 2008. While I was at Algoma, we increased enrolment by 50%, which contributed to the ability to seek independent degree-granting status.

When did you first become involved in OCASA?

I became involved in OCASA less than a year after I started at Sault College. The director of human resources Rick Webb was involved and he must've sent my name along to Diane (Posterski, executive director). I became involved as a general member and a board member almost at once.

What are your hobbies?

I love traveling — both for work and pleasure. I've been to more than 50 countries around the world.  Travel will always be a big part of my life.

We are also a running family. While I was never a really serious runner, I did complete half marathons and 10 kilometre races, and once did a 5 km in 22 minutes —I think that's impressive for an administrator who works far too much! My husband, an elementary school principal, is a more serious runner. His marathon time is 2 hours 35 minutes or so, and two years ago he was listed in the top ten in Ontario for his age group for the 10 km. (2013: #9 at 33:35.2)
We run together as a family. I’ve run with my boys since they were in utero. A couple of months ago we did a 5k fun run sponsored by Sault College.

The most important part of my life are my two kids. I have an 8-year-old son and a five-year-old son.  Like a lot of other parents I've spent much time watching them play soccer and other sports. Through my boys I have become quite proficient in my Lego building skills. If anyone wants to take me on, I challenge them to a Lego house-building competition anytime.

To stay engaged with the community, I'm involved on volunteer boards including the Sault Ste. Marie Canadian Mental Health Association and the administrative representative on the Sault College Board of Governors. I’ve also been very involved in the Gov. Gen.'s Canadian leadership conference (leadershipcanada.ca) having served on the national board and participated as regional coordinator for conferences in 2008, 2012 and 2015.

You’ve worked in both universities and colleges. What have you learned from that experience?

I wish that every administrator had the opportunity to work in a college system. Colleges are often — can I say ‘misunderstood’? That is not to say that people don't intellectually understand what colleges do.
Before I started in the college system, I never really thought of colleges as an option for my children. Now, I would be absolutely thrilled and supportive if either one of my boys wanted to do nearly any program we offer.

What challenges to you see colleges facing?

Demographics: The change of Canada's population will result in an increase in immigration and differentiated roles for postsecondary institutions in addressing skill development.
Exposure: Until we have more decision-makers familiar with what the colleges do, either from having been a student or engaging with the colleges, image will be a challenge. Fortunately that is changing; more students choose to go to college than to University.

What specific challenges does OCASA face?

I would like to see a more widespread understanding of the role that OCASA has in the system. I see OCASA a place for college leaders to engage and interact outside of their core area(s) of accountability. This can facilitate understanding of all areas of operation from academics to services along with an understanding of the college’s role within a provincial context.

Where would you like OCASA be at the end of your term?

A key goal for this year is the rolling out our new strategic plan. We hope to have it finalized this fall. There's been a tremendous amount of work in terms of membership outreach. The executive director Diane Posterski has done some really incredible work consulting with presidents to inform them of the strategic plan in a holistic way. So that's a very big part of the coming year and I'm excited to be part of it.

I know sometimes I’m a little hokey but when I say things like collegiality it's really what I'm all about—and it’s a motivator for my involvement with OCASA. OCASA uniquely brings college administrators together on areas of shared value such as leadership building, management skill development, and exchanging ideas and practices to support the provincial college system. For example, the OCASA mentorship program is such a valuable program. It creates a network for people who don't have those informal links or places to turn for professional support or advice. As OCASA members we can help build these bridges for each other.